Means says goodbye to NIU

By Jake Miller

Gordon Means, director of Media Services and a 37-year employee within the department, enjoyed a retirement celebration Thursday that paid respect to a man who has given time, love and energy to NIU.

Surrounded by family, friends and co-workers in the Sky Room atop the Holmes Student Center, Means was presented with a multitude of gifts that ranged from a DeKalb corn polo shirt, which Means joked made him look like Johnny Cash, to a shade tree which also garnered playful comments.

Gifts and celebrations

“I had [a tree] in my office for years but it died one day. I’ll try and take better care of this one,” Means said.

Frederick Schwantes, vice provost for Resource Planning and a longtime friend of Means, was supposed to speak, but had to leave town abruptly.

Schwantes left a statement full of kind words for Means.

“[Means] will be missed for his artistic talents, abilities as an administrator and leader and for being a heck of a good guy,” Schwantes said in a statement shared by Administrative Assistant Cheryl Ross.

Means shared stories of his past, highlighting specific moments in his career and elaborating on people he has met along the way, many of whom attended the party.

Before coming to NIU, Means landed a job at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper as a photographer, but worked at Washington University in St. Louis while he waited for the position to open.

Means came to NIU in 1969 after hearing about the innovative things the university did in the realm of media from a friend at Washington University.

Growing with NIU

“I drove up on Route 23 and got stopped by a train. I saw a World War II tank over my shoulder and behind that some sort of 1940s diner. I thought I had fallen into some sort of time warp,” Means said during his speech to a room full of people.

The Sky Room was decorated with several photographs taken by Means over the years, which celebrated his vast array of talent behind the camera.

When Means first took the job, the department was called Communication Services and later became what is currently Media Services.

After 32 years, Means was offered the job as director of Media Services.

Although Means loves the work he has done at NIU for so many years, he stressed that the people and location kept him at NIU.

“The geography was great. A small town and Chicago was an hour away. A small town and the hills of Wisconsin are only an hour and a half away,” Means said. “The thing that really made the 37 years so great were the people.”

Looking forward

Means’ wife Sue, who works in Health Services as a nurse, agreed that the area is full of great people.

“We came here thinking we would be here for a couple of years,” Sue said. “We wanted to go to Colorado, but being here is great. There are so many good friends and so many good people here.”

Means has touched many lives and has been a part in helping a multitude of people throughout his 37-year tenure.

“I was in a training program and the Campus Activities Board. [Gordon] gave me the opportunity five years ago in Media Services and Video Production and I’m still here. He’s a really great guy,” said Yoo-Nek Shaw, producer and director of Media Services.

Now that Means is retired, he plans to move to Brown County, Indiana, to enjoy the hills and lush forest of the area.